Nottingham in need of funds after years of success
One of the country's largest university Jewish societies is to launch a fundraising campaign to help finance an improved centre for their social and religious events.
Nottingham JSoc members want to purchase an existing building to be renovated, or raise sufficient funds to build a purpose-built centre. They are desperate to overcome the difficulties faced at their current small, out-dated base in the Beeston area of the city.
A fundraising committee has been set up and will begin work next week.
Nottingham students face substantial geographic problems. Undergraduates are spread across the city, with Nottingham Trent students living and working in one area away from Nottingham University students.
Freshers live on campus, while second and third year students are based in a different part of the city.
A meteoric rise has created unexpected problems
The non-residential centre is a converted house 10 minutes away from the main university campus, and even further from the Trent campus.
When the centre opened in 2006 the city was home to far fewer young Jews, but Nottingham has enjoyed a meteoric rise to become one of the "big four" destinations for Jewish students, alongside Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. But its popularity has created unexpected problems.
Friday night dinners once attracted just 20 students, but JSoc now finds itself feeding up to 150 people at a time, with meals held in a room at the university and food transported from the centre's kitchen.
JSoc president Joe Cohen said the centre was "a totally inadequate environment with insufficient seating and a kitchen so poorly equipped that it takes 15 hours of cooking to cater for each dinner".
Around 200 Freshers joined the society at the start of term, but only 70 now regularly attend JSoc events. Mr Cohen said a bigger, better-equipped centre would have helped to avoid the drop in numbers.
Mr Cohen added: "Without a bigger centre how are we meant to get more people involved and create a greater Jewish experience?"
UJS Hillel chief executive Dan Marcus said work was already under way to address the problem, with sites for a new centre having been considered. But he added that the economic and geographic challenges were hard to overcome.
He said: "Our objective is to work together to find a solution. We have been in discussion with Nottingham's Jewish community to see if we can work together in some way.
"We are giving a huge amount of care and attention to this, but unfortunately we have not yet found the space or facilities to meet students' needs."
At the start of the academic year, Nottingham University became the first in the country to offer on-campus kosher catering, with meals and snacks provided in the canteen.
The venture was spearheaded by UJS operations director Gerry Lucas and Nottingham pro-vice-chancellor Professor Saul Tendler. Financial backing also came from UJS, which provided around £7,000 of funding.